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Sheldon Keefe has been named head coach of AHL’s Toronto Marlies.

The old coach: Mike Babcock, 56, was 9-10-4 in 2019-20 for the Maple Leafs. Babcock, who has a career record of 700-418-183, picked up his last victory for the Leafs on Nov. 7. Hired as part of a massive rebuild, Babcock went 173-133-45 as the Toronto bench boss. After signing the richest coaching contract in NHL history – one worth US$50-million over eight years – Babcock got Toronto to the playoffs the past three seasons after the franchise bottomed out in 2015-16, but was unable to advance beyond the first round.

The new coach: Sheldon Keefe, 39, who has a long history with general manager Kyle Dubas, was in his fifth season as head coach of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. Keefe was 199-89-31 with the Marlies and helped secure the franchise’s first Calder Cup championship in 2018. Keefe has coached a number of current Leafs when they were with the farm team. He is the 31st head coach in franchise history.

The departed, the survivors: Toronto’s past four in-season coach firings – Pat Burns, Ron Wilson, Randy Carlyle and now Babcock – all took place with the team on the road. There were no other changes announced behind the bench on Wednesday, meaning assistants Dave Hakstol and Paul McFarland keep their jobs for now.

The why: The Leafs are 0-5-1 in their past six games, including five successive losses in regulation. Toronto fell 4-2 to the Golden Knights in Vegas on Tuesday after an embarrassing 6-1 defeat on Saturday in Pittsburgh. The team has a star-studded forward group led by Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, a defence corps headlined by Morgan Rielly, Tyson Barrie and Jake Muzzin, and goalie Frederik Andersen. In fact, Toronto’s Big 4 forwards chewed up nearly half of the US$81.5-million cap. The Leafs’ power play currently ranks 18th over all, while the penalty kill sits 27th.

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